Clinical depression is a disease that affects both women and men. In fact, it’s estimated that more than six million men in the United States suffer from depression. For both males and females, symptoms of depression include loss of interest in enjoyable activities, fatigue, appetite changes, difficulty sleeping and apathy.
When it comes to depression, the difference between men and women is often observed in how males and females express the symptoms. While women may tend to feel sad when they are depressed, cultural norms don’t easily permit men to express these same feelings. As a result, men suffering from depression may instead focus on the physical symptoms, such as feeling tired, rather than the emotional ones. They also may become irritable, less communicative, withdrawn and in some cases, more aggressive.
For these reasons, it can be difficult to diagnose depression in men. Even when exhibiting the signs and symptoms, many men may fail to recognize the problem as depression. A primary care doctor can help determine whether symptoms are a sign of depression or some other health concern. Some medications can cause side effects similar to the symptoms of depression, so if you take medication, it’s important to see your doctor to rule that out. A physician can also refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist, if signs point to depression. The good news is that depression can be treated successfully in more than 80 percent of people. Treatment methods may include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.
In addition to scheduling an appointment with a primary care doctor, there are some things that men – and women, for that matter – should keep in mind when considering ways to improve mental health and well-being:
- Build and maintain a network of trusted family and friends to provide support when needed.
- Exercise regularly. Studies show that exercise can relieve stress and help with symptoms of depression.
- Look closely at your life to see if and how changes can be made to make life happier and more fulfilling.